Who Is Frank Miller: The King Of Comics
This legendary artist is a 65-year-old American filmmaker, comic book artist and screenwriter. He was born in Olney, Maryland, in 1957, in a family of Irish descent, of the Catholic religion. His wife since 2005 is the illustrator and comic book colorist Lynn Varley. Today we will learn more about who is Frank Miller.
His most outstanding works worldwide have been Daredevil Born Again, Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, Ronin, and 300. These have given him a plus within the industry, being catalogued as an influencer who has left his mark, painting as one of the most controversial cartoonists and screenwriters of modern comics.
This author’s career goes through the arduous task of reforming beloved comic characters, such as Batman and Daredevil. But also, for many, his name attracts appellatives such as controversial, eccentric, reactionary, and even insane. So, Miller is an accumulation of contrasts, some of which can be great and others simply uncomfortable.
So, we believe that the fairest way to define him, both for those who defend him and his detractors, is that he is a man who belongs to another era. And with his ideas, he has revolutionized the world of comics.
Who is Frank Miller?
Image: Daniel Benavides
Frank Miller has been characterized as a somewhat peculiar author with an anachronistic understanding of archetypes and stories. What for many embodies a whole bunker of narrative classicism typical of the twentieth century.
Perhaps this behavior was subordinated to the fact that he was very young. At that time, he had a significant influence on literary dystopias or manga and film noir, which made him create stories for fanzines until he debuted as a professional in the late 70s, with the comic derived from the Twilight Zone series in the Gold Key Publishing House.
Being the heir of a typical narrative, where some premises are preached that today do not quite fit, analogically makes this dinosaur of the comics become a fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex for some current readers. All this is because of his voracious appetite for storytelling in his way.
Frank Miller’s Golden Age
Image: Pinguino K
The 70s were Frank Miller’s golden age. At that time, he started as a cartoonist in the world of comics. Being just a teenager, he received very harsh criticism for his work.
But he did not talk about this until 2017 during Heroes Comic-Con in Madrid, where he said during the event “The harshest criticism I have received in my life was from Neal Adams and Will Eisner”, he went on to say that “The first said he did not know how to draw. The second said I couldn’t tell stories. Thanks to them I improved in both fields.
In his first job, he worked for a trial period at DC Comics, where his name would never appear on any page. It was not until 1978, with the publication of Weird War Tales #64 that he was among the authors of the work.
Image: DC Comics
Shortly after that, Marvel’s editor, Jim Shooter, called him to work on the series John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a fairly loose adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ acclaimed novel A Princess of Mars.
After writing several issues of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, which he drew, he met Daredevil, who at the time was a guest star in one of the adventures.
The love that this author felt for this character was at first sight. So, he turned to his protector, the screenwriter Jo Duffy, who valued his point of view of the enormous potential he saw in his character. This discovery made his move immediately to the Daredevil series, which was at great risk of being cancelled by that time.
The Daredevil Rebirth
Image: Marvel Comics
With Daredevil #158, a brilliant period of the superhero Daredevil began, where Miller served as a cartoonist, inker Klauss Janson, and screenwriter Roger McKenzie. All of this can be seen in the volume Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klauss Janson.
Thanks to this cooperation, Daredevil was one of the best Marvel characters of his time. That did not stop there, as they managed to revalue characters like Bullseye and Kingpin at the same time. The recycling of these characters was a success. It managed to introduce Elektra, who was his classic plot of the Clan of the Hand. This suitability helped Miller to demonstrate his solvency in the neo-noir genre that has accompanied him all his life.
The modernization of Daredevil’s mythology is undoubtedly due to Frank Miller, who made this character his reference material for later adaptations for television and cinema.
All this made Frank Miller collaborate strongly with the great X-Men screenwriter, Chris Claremont, in the miniseries of Honor, the key work of Wolverine. Work that made Miller’s star continue to shine with enormous force.
The Dark Knight of Frank Miller
He went through The Dark Knight, but we are not referring to the movie. This period is key to understanding who Frank Miller is. This name refers to a metaphor for what happened after the author left Marvel in 1983, at the end of Daredevil #191.
From Marvel, he moved to DC, starting his work with Ronin, while at the same time, he was working on other projects, all of which were rejected. Then, he made a revamp that gave continuity to characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, three characters that urgently needed a facelift. Fans accepted none of them.
It was not until 1986 that DC launched the story to redefine the fallen Batman. This reboot gave a turn to the self-criticism and rawness of the mythology surrounding the hero, whose popularity required relaunching.
Frank Miller’s Duo with Klaus Janson
Image: DC Comics
Miller met with Klaus Janson, who in 2005 would become his wife, colorist Lynn Varley. This team created one of the most important Batman stories: The Dark Knight Returns. This team also worked together with Watchmen, proving that superhero comics are not only for children but also for adults.
At the same time, David Mazzucchelli and Frank Miller retook the reins for seven issues of the Daredevil collection at Marvel. This duet, in those issues, included Born Again, Daredevil’s most relevant graphic novel, which is still one of the most valued, not only for the script that characterizes it but also for Mazzucchelli’s unrepeatable pencils.
This issue was not the last work of this period of Miller, followed by The Man Without Fear, Elektra Murdered, and the Dark Knight: Daredevil: Love and War, published shortly after, which expanded Miller’s vision of Daredevil.
Finally, by that time, in 1987, he underpinned one of the key Batman works, again alongside Mazzucchelli: his Batman: Year One, which would represent the definitive Batman origin story, and which has become the most influential starting point for comic books and, of course, film screenwriters who have worked on the Dark Knight.
Frank Miller’s Time at Dark Horse
Image: Dark Horse
During the 90s, one of his most important works was conceived by the independent publisher Dark Horse, where Miller was given creative freedom to develop whatever he wanted. This decade Miller redirected himself like many other cartoonists and screenwriters of the time. Declaring his rebellion against the very poor working conditions offered by traditional publishers.
This allowed Frank Miller to collaborate with cartoonist Geoff Darrow in Hard Boiled, a comic that involved ultraviolence, mixed with some of the black genre, satire and science fiction.
The work presented problems at Dark Horse due to the constant protests of the elaborate content. That same year he collaborated with Dave Gibbons, the cartoonist famous for his drawings in Watchmen, whose scripts were made by Frank Miller. Both managed to create the limited series Martha Washington: Give Me Liberty, a political satire that Miller knew how to handle very well, along with The Dark Knight Returns and Elektra: Assasin.
These comics had new levels of violence and apocalyptic and futuristic stories in common. Both Gibbson and Miller worked again on several works, such as Martha Washington Goes to War in 1994, Happy Birthday, Martha Washington in 1995, Martha Washington Saves the World in 1997, and Martha Washington Dies in 2007.
Frank Miller’s Contribution to Cinema
Image: Orion Pictures
He wrote the initial script for Robocop 2 (1990), whose original story was cut, but we can see it adapted to the comic in the volume Robocop, by Frank Miller, published by Aleta some time ago.
These works are alternated with others, such as movie scripts, among which stand out the miniseries RoboCop Vs The Terminator inspired by Robocop 2, and Batman/ Spawn, Miller, did the latter with the famous Image character, who was Spawn in that crossover. But something that stands out at that time, 1991, is his most famous work belonging to the black genre Sin City, in which the author did not plan to continue writing stories set in the city mentioned above.
From then on, Fran Miller delves graphically into an aesthetic synthesis of expressionism, where he was strongly influenced by José Muñoz, an Argentinean inclined to the theme of the black series. This approach is how he frames his comics in this style and begins a tribute to Muñoz.
In 1995, he worked on Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot with Darrow, which had an animated series, Big Guy and Robot. In the Dark Horse publishing house, Big Guy manages to make some crossovers with other characters, such as Madman by Mike Allred or Martha Washington.
Introducing 300, a Huge Success
Image: Dark Horse
In 1998 he made the graphic novel 300, where he highlights the Thermopylae battle with the Spartans’ approach. This comic drew attention for its excellent color and landscape format edition.
Recently, Miller returned to DC Comics and made a second part of the successful The Dark Knight Returns, editing a miniseries in three issues, which became known by the acronym DK2.
From 2005 to 2008, he worked with Jim Lee in All-Star: Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder. The reception was quite negative by critics, for the script presented by Miller “specifically for its non-traditional portrayal of the main character”.
From 2015 to 2017, DCDC split the sequel to The Dark Knight Strikes Again into nine parts, where Miller co-wrote with Klaus Janson, Andy Kubert, and Brian Azzarello. This issue was the comic with the most copies of issues sold.
Contributions of Frank Miller to Cinema
As we have seen, Fran Miller’s contributions surpass three decades, where he is praised among the best comic book screenwriters the industry has seen. But his most emblematic contributions made have been Batman and Daredevil.
And like every screenwriter in the comic book industry, he wanted to try something different, like film. While it is true that he does not have a long film list, nor the most notable, it would be a sin to overlook it. Among those that stand out:
- Robocop 2 – Screenwriter. This product was Miller’s first foray into Hollywood, which was not very encouraging. After the success of The Dark Knight Returns, Miller was considered ideal for the sequel to RoboCop, but the script was not seen with good eyes by the production, considering it too daring and unrealistic. Walon Green rewrote the script.
- Robocop 3 – Screenwriter. The previous experience did not discourage Miller, who wrote the script for Robocop 3 again. He did it with all the hope of not making the same mistakes of the previous one. Unfortunately, as happened with his original ideas for Robocop 2, they were cut to pieces in Robocop 3. This bitter experience meant that Miller did not work behind the camera again until Sin City, 15 years later.
- Jugular Came – Starring alongside Stan Lee. This is one of the films that fans won’t find much information about. Regardless of the criticism received for the quality of the film, they will be able to view some random cameos. In These appearances, we saw a younger Frank Miller, and a Marvel’s Stan Lee, as Professor Baker.
Image via 20th Century Studios
- Daredevil – Brief Appearance. The Daredevil project received a great contribution from Miller, where part of the Ben Affleck vehicle was based on the character’s tales, which the screenwriter wrote. Although Miller himself did not work as a writer for the film, the filmmakers paid tribute to him for his great work.
- Sin City – Co-director. Hollywood could not pass up one of Miller’s most emblematic graphic novels by bringing it to the big screen. He jumped at the chance, working as co-director of the film alongside Robert Rodriguez. The film’s success was immense, providing his first blockbuster.
- 300 & Rise Of An Empire – Executive Producer. As amazing as it may seem, Miller had no creative input on this film. It was Zack Snyder who wrote and directed 300.
- The Spirit – Director/Screenwriter. This film represented Miller’s second effort after the success of Sin City. Will Eisner’s comics-inspired it, but this one did not have the acceptance of the previous one, being catalogued as a failure.
- Sin City: A Dame To Kill For – Co-director. It was not until 2014 that Miller resumed directing a film, for which he met with Robert Rodriguez. Unfortunately, this sequel turned out to be another failure.
- Cursed – Creator, Producer, Actor. This Netflix-produced TV show has movie quality, proving that he is still one of the best screenwriters in comics. This one rewrote the graphic novel Cursed with Thomas Wheeler. The latter was responsible for writing the scripts, and Miller carried out the executive producer.
Frank Miller’s Best Works
His best works are Daredevil Born Again, Batman, The Dark Knight, Returns, Sin City, Ronin, and 300. Undoubtedly, the series Daredevil: Born Again could be inspired by this comic by Fran Miller.
The contributions made by this great work of Miller seem to reach the new Disney + series. This shows that this author continues to set a great reference in telling superhero stories. So possibly, we will see his work materialized again in this series.
A Prolific and Still-Active Artist
Frank Miller is still alive; until 2020, he worked with Netflix on his productions. So he is incredibly active in the film industry. This proves that this charismatic and contradictory author has much more to give.
Not in vain, on July 10, 2015, he was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame. This happened during the San Diego Comic-Con. He was also working since 2017 with John Romita, Jr. on Superman: Year One, a graphic novel.
Featured Image Via Ferran Cornellà
I am a circus aerialist influenced by Dick Grayson and Spider-Man. Fortunate to write about the characters that inspired me. I also have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and a Master's degree in International Trade.